The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume I by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Complete Sherlock Holmes 1

(Caidyn)

3.8/5

This is going to be one of the few times that I’ll tell people to read my Goodreads review and won’t include it on here. I started the review over there and it’s so much easier since I’d have to tweak things too much.

Some general trends for you guys:

  • The only full story I like is The Hound of the Baskervilles. Every other full story has too many issues and not enough of a mystery to drag it out that long.
  • The short story anthologies are so much better than the full-length stories. They’re just perfect and Doyle is masterful with them.
  • While I say I love the heart of The Memoirs better (aka showing Sherlock as fallible), I actually rated the short stories in The Adventures higher.
  • I tend to like the stories best that show Sherlock as different or failing since he’s always seen as an infallible character when he’s extremely flawed on most accounts.

Other than that, I do enjoy these stories. That all started because of BBC’s Sherlock, a show that I don’t watch anymore and happily read about whatever crap they come up with for the seasons. Overall, a solid first volume and I’m really excited for the second volume since I haven’t read any of those stories.

The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones

The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors

(Caidyn)

4.5/5

Let’s face it. I already know a lot about this area of history. I know most of the chronology and the sides that people were on. Or, at least, I can recognize the names and piece things together from there. I didn’t really need to read this book.

However, I just really love Dan Jones. I think he’s a great author. He puts his great voice into the work, and if you’ve ever seen anything that he’s been in as a historian then you know what I mean. And, he knows how to make things simple, but not too simple. I think that takes a very good author since most just toss you in and hope you figure it out. Jones does that, but he also tries to explain things.

Since I find this era highly interesting, I would have rated it highly no matter what. Then there’s my love of Dan Jones so it means that I’m going to enjoy it. The only reason it got that very picky half star taken off was just that I wish it had gone more in depth. At times, it felt like an overview when I wanted more to it. I expected more, too, thanks to how long it is on my Kindle.

Again, a picky detail from someone who already knows tons about this era (I would never say I know everything because there are people even more drenched in it than I am). Just that I would have liked more. A good book to start off with to whet your interest, then you can get to books about specific people or monarchs that catch your interest off this.

The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional by Agustin Fuentes

The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional

(Caidyn)

4/5

Being a psychology major, you have to have a passing familiarity with evolution. Not just our old ancestors, but more than that. Knowing that you can track the progression of human brain growth and how/when skills might have been acquired by looking at the size of a skull. Then you can compare humans and apes, seeing what may or may not match up. How humans could have become the way they are.

Then, there’s evolutionary psychology with how things have stayed throughout the centuries. Why things stick and then others don’t. How traits carry on through the years despite them seeming undesirable.

While I don’t plan on going into evolutionary psychology or theory (although it’s fascinating) I know all of this thanks to my classes. Not just psychology, but cultural anthropology. My professor started out talking about the last common ancestor (LCA) and sort of on through there since you have to know the basics of hominids.

All of that being said, I have ample background on this topic. Practically everything Fuentes mentioned in his book I had either heard before or it was a slightly different twist on it. I wish he had spent more time on some things, but I love the spin on it. The reason why we have all of these abilities that are uniquely human is that of creativity. It’s, well, creative. And how he used facts and showed them in a new light, it really helped make his point.

For anything else, I’d want this book for reminders about human evolution and to use for any research I have to do in the future since it’s such a good resource point. I definitely recommend this book more to beginners on this topic than people who know a lot.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway cover

“Kade was possibly the most beautiful boy she’d ever seen. She wanted to spend hours sitting with him and talking about pointless things. She wanted to feel his hand against her skin, to know that his presence was absolute and focused entirely on her. The trouble was, it never seemed to end there, and that was as far as she was willing to go. (121)


(Chantel)

4/5 – Every Heart a Doorway is a novella that takes place at a school for children who have gone through portals into other worlds and get forced back to our world for one reason or another and they are desperate to return to the world where they felt they belonged.

This book is beautiful. From the cover to the writing, it’s gorgeous. The writing is lyrical and I had to read it slowly so that I could take it in. Even though this book is less than 200 pages, take your time reading it and really focus on the writing. It’s worth slowing down and seeing which words McGuire chooses. There is very wonderful imagery as well as dark and disturbing imagery, some which I wasn’t expecting. This book is dark and I wasn’t expecting that going in.

If you’ve looked back at the past reviews I’ve done, you’ll see that most of the books I’ve reviewed are primarily LGBTQ+ focused with LGBTQ+ main characters. This is no exception, but this book has an asexual main character, Nancy. Something I haven’t ever read about in a book and it was beautifully done. As someone who identifies as asexual, I felt like it was well represented and I could relate to how Nancy was feeling. The differences between “asexual” and “aromantic” being explained just had me shouting YES. This is something I crave and am desperate for more of in books.

Then there was a trans character named Kade, and he was my favorite character. I know there are two more books and I don’t believe either are about him but there needs to be a book about him. Then there is the interesting dynamic of Jack and Jill who are identical twins who present very differently gender wise. Jack wears button downs and bowties where Jill wears dresses, this is very interesting considering their background and I know there is more of their story in Down Among the Sticks and Bones which I’m very excited to read when I can get my hands on it.

My main issue with this book was that it’s a novella. It’s really short and when you have your eyes opened up to a new world and all of these characters who visited said worlds, you want to see them all. Again, I’m aware of two more books in the series, but I want to know far more about the worlds that were visited without having to wait a year for the next book to come out. I’m impatient that way. With that said, this is a standalone novella, you can read Every Heart a Doorway and never read any of the others. Although, I don’t know how you wouldn’t crave more from this world and these characters. I will read the other two books, Down Among the Sticks and Bones and Beneath the Sugar Sky when it comes out because I love this world that was created even if we get little snippets at a time.

It’s a wonderful thing to see yourself represented in a book and I think that’s something I don’t always realize, but to see your inner thoughts in print in someone else’s book coming from someone else’s mind, that means everything.

 

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2)

Chantel – 1/5 stars and DNFed at 50%
Caidyn – 1/5 stars and DNFed at 80%

Review for the first book can be found here.

What can be nicely said about this book? Because there are many things that we both talked about while reading this book that weren’t so kindly phrased.

In sum: The issues both of us had for this book weren’t corrected. In fact, they got worse.

The first book had a problem with characters. Both of us thought that Kell and Lila were incredibly dull and boring. They had a backstory, but it was being kept all *~mysterious~* rather than telling it to the reader so we could understand them more. Lila was just straight up annoying and not at all what she’s being marketed as (aka, a very strong female character) when she has incredible flaws and uses her strength as a mask only for that to fall through. Which makes her do idiotic things. Kell is just dull and brooding and the typical YA male. (Not good since this isn’t a YA book, but the threads of stereotypical YA characters run deeply in Schwab’s main characters.)

How did it get worse? Lila didn’t change and got stupider. Kell got even more brooding, if that was a possibility. Not only that, but the side characters weren’t that good anymore. We loved Rhy (Chantel’s favorite character) and he was even off, although understandable from his brush with death in the last book. Then, there was Alucard, a new character for this book that, again, couldn’t save it.

There is something wrong with a book when secondary characters more life and a better backstory than the main characters do. Both of us commented that we wanted a book about Rhy and/or Alucard. We couldn’t care less about Lila and Kell just because how annoying they were.

Our second issue with the first book was the plot. All told, it was a nice plot. Super interesting and fast paced. However, it was all quickly summed up so it could have just been a novel rather than a series. (And why they put “a novel” on the cover of the book when it’s not a novel severely bothers Caidyn.)

While we had a big issue with that and discuss it in length in our review of the first book, we could both probably sum it up and make it sound super interesting with the ending as a caveat. This book? Couldn’t tell you what the point was because there was no plot. Plots have to bring the story forward and add tension. They draw the reader in and keep them worrying about the characters. This book didn’t have it. There was some sort of magical game, a baddie was doing stuff every 100+ pages or so, and that was it. Nothing happened. So, it got worse, basically.

We were left with thinking this should have been a novel, not a trilogy. There was no reason for it if this is what we get.

Then, Chantel found more typos in the book. (Note: Caidyn did not find typos in either of the books. Chantel had to send the pictures of the pages to him so he could find them.) Which reflects on the writing and the lack of editing. We get it. Typos and grammatical errors slide through the cracks all the time. But if you’re getting it professionally published, it better be polished so simple issues don’t happen.

What we’re left with from these two books is that we’re not going to finish the series as the plan was. After this disappointment, it’s best to leave this series where we have and not press on.

aint-nobody-got-time-for-that

20th Anniversary of Harry Potter

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The Boy Who Lived. A first chapter that changed so many lives by opening up the doors to a world that feels real and expands as the time goes by. Each time it’s read, you see a new detail that you didn’t catch before. You notice a new connection. Certainly, it changed the two bloggers here.

(Caidyn)

I was one when the book came out so, obviously, I wasn’t really conscious of its presence. That happened when the first movie came out. My mom probably took me to see it. Sadly, I don’t have a memory of seeing it for the first time, but I have a stark memory of telling my sister-in-law asking me if the Basilisk scared me after the second movie. I answered matter of factly: “No. It reminded me of my mom when she shouts.”

After that, my mom read the first and second books, decided they were close enough to the films and started on the third book. She read to me in the mornings when I was waking up, then I would run onto the bus and retell the story to my friends. Fourth grade came and I told her to stop reading to me, so I picked up the first and second books then read them to myself. Had a stutter on the fifth book (because I mean, I was nine) and I remember reading the end of the sixth book on a night train hurtling through Japan, curtains drawn with one light while I read about Dumbledore and Inferni.

My childhood was filled with magic. I loved playing pretend with my mom. Every day, I would ask her, “Who do you want to be, Mom? Who do you want to be?” I would play as Harry and Hermione, mainly. She would be whoever I needed her to be. When I was a teenager, I picked up RPing, starting with Harry Potter as a comfort zone. I wrote fanfiction as well and, yes, all of the ones I wrote are still somewhere on the internet.

Harry Potter helped me through very hard times in my life. When I questioned my sexuality and gender identity, I turned to these books. Luna helped me realize that, no matter what, I’m still normal. Lupin helped me know that my true friends wouldn’t care about things as trivial as that. Harry helped me know that being courageous doesn’t mean that you can’t be afraid; in fact, you’re usually terrified while doing it. This helped me through depression and anxiety and the loss of friends as I came out to them.

JK Rowling definitely gave me my childhood. No matter what she does that annoys me — *cough* Cursed child and random decisions to tweet out things to toss away fan theories that she should have addressed in the seven books she had *cough* — these books hold a special place in my heart.

 

(Chantel)

I cannot believe it’s been twenty years since Harry Potter was first published.

My first memory of Harry Potter was a trip to the movie theater. I vividly remember (which means it may or may not have happened) going to see Monsters Inc. at a theater. It was around the time the first movie came out and I remember seeing on one of the theaters that a movie called Harry Potte was playing. I thought it was hilarious. I pronounced it “Harry Potty” because I was young and even now I’m chuckling at twenty-five.

Anyway, I remember reading the books with my mom. I grew up with a single mom who liked moving, a lot. But we were very close and still are to this day. We both read the first few books together and then listened to them on tape. It was only then that we finally learned how to pronounce Hermione. I don’t think I can phonetically spell out how we pronounced it, but it was pretty absurd looking back on it.

As I got older and the other books kept coming out, I read them and it wasn’t until I got to the fifth book that I hit a brick wall. Then I read Half-Blood Prince in a week. I’ve never actually reread the sixth or seventh books. I’ve seen the movies countless times. I really enjoy movies more than books (says a person with a book blog), but I know I’m missing out on a lot by not reading the books multiple times. One day I’d like to read the sixth and seventh books again because I feel the sixth movie, in particular, didn’t do justice to the book.

Now that the series is over, Harry Potter certainly hasn’t diminished in my mind. Harry, Ron, and Hermione will always feel like long lost friends of mine because they are so ingrained in my childhood. I love the series and I grew up with it. It started as something I shared with my mom and even though the series was over, and goddamn it JK it’s over, it’s one that I’ve revisited countless times. Which doesn’t happen for me. I rarely reread books, but I’ve read the first three books more than any others in the series. Maybe any other books ever.

The books and movies will live on and if I ever have children you bet your ass they are going to know the world of Harry Potter and will shun Cursed Child like the dumpster fire it is.

I feel like writers especially aspire to influence and inspire so many people with their writing. I know I do, and I doubt JK could’ve anticipated what Harry Potter would become when she first started writing the first draft or the second, or even when the book was published, but in 50 years, 100 years, and beyond, people will still remember Harry Potter and it’s influence. You can count on that.

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Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community

Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community

(Caidyn)

4/5

First, let me give my bias to you. I am a very nontraditional religious person and, at times, a pagan. When I was a teenager, I looked into Wicca as an option for myself and while I decided it wasn’t for me, I do love the principles behind it. As I said, I’m nontraditional. While I have a quick answer for my religious beliefs since most people will understand a single religion as an answer, I’m very integrative. If I like a concept or a belief, I’ll likely incorporate it into my personal theology. That means I’m a lot like neopagans, so I sympathize and understand them in a way many won’t.

That out of the way, I’ll start in.

I read this for my New Religious Movements class as the last big topic of ours after covering who knows how many religious movements now. We focused on the topics of self-identity and cultural appropriation, so I likely won’t discuss them but more of the book itself.

I thought that Pike tackled the topic of neopaganism in a unique way. Instead of trying to categorize or create lines in this incredibly diverse group of people, she looked at a single concept that they all have in common: Festivals. They all have festivals and go to them. There are ones that are more specific, but all of them incorporate everyone. It’s an individual religion but also extremely collective. It doesn’t matter who or what you worship. Any god/goddess/fairy/etc can be included.

Then Pike shows the lines that they draw. Between shrines and altars. Between religious groups, namely Christianity. Between themselves against Satanists (which is not what you think, and if you want to know more I’d be happy to discuss). Within themselves for what is appropriate behavior during festivals, which is largely seen as a hedonistic event where everything goes.

It’s an impressive job that Pike took on for herself, then finding the research to back up her claims and to reinterpret what they said. I definitely want to reread this to further understand this group that I, at least somewhat, belong to. It’s a very interesting and easy to read book, even with the dense topics that are covered.

Read for: New Religious Movements

Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet by Lyndal Roper

Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet

(Caidyn)

4/5

I know that I should be drinking a nice glass of lukewarm beer while I write this but, sorry, I’m not.

My first real brush with Luther’s theology was this past semester when I took a course at my college called Christianity II: Development. It covered Christianity from after 500AD to modern times. So, that included Luther and the Protestant revolution. I like to think that I won my professor over by my reactions in class to Luther’s writings. I was sitting in my corner seat, silently laughing to myself at his comments because, man, Luther can slay. I don’t know if any of you are familiar with him, but he’s hilarious. (If you want to, check this link out for some of his writings.) He throws shade left and right at people, bringing up bowel movements and farting. All in his theological writings.

Not only that, but Luther was extremely anxious. It shows in his theology and his writing. He was constantly worried that he wasn’t good enough, something I think that people can really connect with no matter the time period.

Roper sets out to create a psychological profile of him, relating to the above examples and his theology. Everyone puts something of themselves into their religious beliefs and their religious beliefs affect their personality. It’s a pattern you can consistently see throughout different biographies. Get to the heart of their thoughts and you’ll understand their actions, or if you look at their history then you can decide how they could have thought.

Since I’m largely unfamiliar with Luther’s life, I learned a lot about his family and how that impacted him. It was interesting to see the root of his anxieties then how they translated into his anxieties with religion, and further into his choice to reject the idea that we have a hand in being saved by God.

I wish that I could have paid more attention to the analysis (hence the four stars) because I was so busy absorbing the historical timeline. That fault is entirely mine. There was only so much I could absorb at a time and I was more focused on keeping events straight and who people were in relation to Luther.

This really is a great book. A great historical biography of Luther and one that I would recommend to anyone who wants to know more about the man behind what I would call the greatest schism in Christianity.

The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie

The Edge of the Abyss cover

(Chantel)

Here’s my link to The Abyss Surrounds Us the first book in this duology.

3/5 – When I finished The Abyss Surrounds Us, I was so excited to read the sequel and it felt like it took forever until the book came into my possession. I needed to figure out where Cas’s journey was going to take her next after the end of the last book. There was some moral ambiguity that I couldn’t get enough of in the first book and I wasn’t disappointed when it continued on in this book. In fact, they go more in depth and addressed something that didn’t come up in the first book. How her decisions in the first book affected her family. I really liked seeing that paid off and the contrast between her and Swift was even more obvious in this book.

For those who haven’t read the first book, and looking back on my review I didn’t actually give a summary of the book, here was the general premise: Cassandra Leung is a reckoner trainer who ends up kidnapped by pirates on her first solo mission. When Cas is forced to train an illegal reckoner pup for Santa Elena, the Captain who kidnapped her, she’s put in a compromising position of loyalty. This was her arc in the first book, and it continues on in the second book.

This was probably the most compelling part of the book. I cared more about her struggle with morality and loyalty than I did with the actual plot or the romance (we’ll get to that), but I also thought it was something that was a huge part of her character and I felt like it needed to be explored and I wasn’t disappointed there.

What I was disappointed with was the relationship with Cas and Swift. I praised the first book for not allowing the two to enter into a relationship with a clear power imbalance. This is eliminated, but the second book did the wonderful trope of will they/won’t they. Actually, it was more of a tug-of-war where they would have a scene together where they were kissing or sleeping next to each other and then wouldn’t speak for two chapters because one of them was upset with the other. It got to the point where I was annoyed. I liked where their relationship ended up at the end, it wasn’t happily ever after but I felt it fit with their relationship and how up in the air it had been for two books now.

The ending, however, was frustrating. It was clear where the book was heading and I wasn’t sure how things were going to wrap up. My issue was it wrapped up too neatly for my tastes. It was disappointing for a duology that had explored different arcs than ones I was used to in YA. The end just felt like everything was neatly wrapped up with a bow like it only is in movies and books. I’m not saying I would’ve liked an ending where everyone died, but a more realistic ending or at least one that wasn’t so predictable and neat.

The first book was far more superior and while I enjoyed parts of this one, it’s not a five-star book by any means and I felt the ending was beneath the duology as a whole.

 

Ghost Hunt, Volume 11 by Shiho Inada and Fuyumi Ono

Ghost Hunt, Volume 11

(Caidyn)

3.5/5

All right, story time.

When I read scary things, I like to set the mood for it. I like being creeped out. I enjoy being a little scared. So, for this book, I got a station on Pandora playing (Spooky Symphonies for those who care) and I turned out the lights in my room so I could only use the flashlight on my phone for light. Quickly, I settled into the rhythm the last volume left off with, finding my heart beating faster and faster. And then some bodies fell out of the attic in the book and I remembered that my closet has a passage into the attic and I was moving to turn that light on.

After that, it was easy sailing. I can’t say much more since this volume picks up at the end of the last one, so saying too much of the plot would spoil things. Let’s just say that the scary momentum wasn’t carried forward. It changed itself in a way that was more unsettling than scary. Because you had to take a step back and question, “Wait, I don’t remember these characters? Where did they come from?” all while the characters in the story are acting like it’s completely normal.

However, to buffer that change, you have more discoveries about Naru’s and Mai’s abilities. Which throws everything from the past volumes into circumspect since you have to rethink all that you learned thus far.

It makes me really excited for the last book. Which I can read any time now since they never translated it into English, but I found a translation done by someone online for it.